Reviewby Theron Martin, May 15th 2007
Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid
As his Mithral companions search out Hong Kong for the rampaging Venom, Sousuke wanders its vacated streets in a daze, the stress of his responsibilities, troubles, and conflicting priorities finally having gotten too much for him. A chance encounter with a working girl helps him sort some things out, and a cryptic message which leads him to meet an old adversary answers further questions but does not ease his troubled mind. With Yu Fang still wreaking havoc and Gates and his strike force also coming into the picture, the AS battle situation in the city has become harrowing indeed. To save everyone and stop the bad guys, Sousuke must come to terms with himself and find his motivation, and Kaname is just the girl to help him do it.
In the bonus OVA episode “A Relatively Leisurely Day in the Life of a Fleet Captain,” Tessa encounters the eccentricities of some of her key crew members while trying to piece together just what all happened to her the night before after an unintentional bout of drinking leaves her memory hazy.
This volume features Sousuke hanging out with a Kaname look-a-like hooker.
If you're a fan of the Full Metal Panic franchise and that doesn't get you to see this volume, I don't know what will.
Seriously, though, the meltdown by Sousuke that marked the end of the previous volume becomes the focus of this volume as an uncharacteristically directionless Sousuke wanders around the near-deserted Hong Kong trying to sort out where his priorities do (and should) lie. This is not Sousuke as you have seen him at any previous point in any FMP series, as the incident with the prostitute attests. During this time he finally encounters the mysterious Sensei of the twins, and his identity should surprise no one who is a long-time FMP fan. Although the Sensei has a lot of interesting things to say about Sousuke and basic plot elements underlying both the original series and Second Raid, the reaction he gets from Sousuke truly justifies sitting through the comparatively slow-paced episodes 11 and 12. While not necessarily out of character, it is nonetheless a bit shocking.
That leaves only the final regular episode to wrap everything up, and as a result, the climatic mecha battles feels rushed, overly easy, and unimpressive compared to the steady and careful development of the series. Kaname finally shows up in grand fashion, and the manic behavior of Gates again proves to be a highlight, but more interesting is Sousuke's behavior afterwards. The story is not over when the battle is won.
The extra-length bonus episode, by comparison, marks a return to the humorous, free-wheeling style seen in the Fumoffu? episodes. It not only provides the volume with its requisite quota of fan service (Tessa has never looked better!) but reveals highly amusing insight into some important cast members; we get to find out who is a closet otaku, for instance. The cost of the volume is almost worth it for this episode alone.
As ever for the franchise, the sharp, vibrant artistry (even when showing darker-hued scenes) and solid animation provide for a pleasing visual experience. Lamba driver special effects in the climatic battle scenes are suitably impressive, and the animation adds in some neat tricks if one watches carefully with them. The OVA episode in particular shines in the exaggerated reactions of crew members, Tessa's luxuriously pretty look with her hair down, and a few amusing details that can pass so quickly they can easily be missed if one is not especially alert.
The musical score is at its best in the sillier scenes in the bonus episode, while it disappears for long tracks in episode 11 and 12; such scenes do not require music to set the mood however, so it was a good choice. In places where it is present the soundtrack relies on standard franchise themes, and the opener and closer remain unchanged. The English dub provides no letdown from previous volumes, with the highlight this time being Gates' dialogue involving the twins in the last episode. All the English actors once again prove capable of delivering on the more emotional content, as well as having a bit of fun in the OVA. The English script through these episodes is somewhat flexible but never strays too far.
In addition to the bonus OVA episode, the on-disc Extras include Japanese audio commentary for all three episodes, the last two parts of the Hon Kong Location Scouting documentary, and textless songs. The interior cover sports bonus artwork, while the booklet this time includes profiles and an art gallery for some key characters and equipment and two pages of Story Files. It also, unfortunately, includes the return of the hard-to-read print seen in volume 2.
While the last regular episode does ultimately bring the series to a proper ending, it also leaves some nagging questions unanswered, such as the exact nature of Kaname's Whispered ability. At the time of this writing no word has come about possible further animation for the franchise, but the final episode does leave the window open for that possibility. If this is to be the last animated FMP content, though, then it certainly could have done much worse. This volume may not be as strong in its writing as the previous two, but it is a respectable close-out for the series.
Overall (dub) : B+
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : B+
Animation : A-
Art : A-
Music : B+
+ Bonus OVA episode.
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